About the Author
Angela Thomas is an ordinary woman and mom, with an extraordinary passion for God. She's been honored to walk alongside women of all ages and walks of life through her books and speaking engagements. Angela received her Master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. For more information on Angela, visit: www.angelathomas.com.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)
When I was a little girl in North Carolina dreaming about what I wanted to be when I grew up, I chose the most radical, adventurous, outside-my-box, scare-my-parents-silly thing I could think of. My mom was a nurse and my dad sold produce. I was their firstborn, and I decided that I wanted to be an astronaut. Of course no one took me seriously for a while, which made me all the more determined.
Folks would come over for dinner and I'd hear them talking to my parents. Actually, I was eavesdropping. I'd lurk around the grown-ups, careful not to draw too much attention to myself, silently gathering information. For some reason, I thought that I belonged in their conversation more than I belonged outside on the swing set. I'd overhear one of my parents say, "Angela wants to be an astronaut," and then I'd watch as the guest would look over at me, amazed. I assumed they were thinking, That squirrelly little four-eyed kid? She seems kind of nerdy, but she must have spunk. She's got big dreams. I'd puff up on the inside, thinking to myself, One of these days you are going to watch me land on the moon.
I kept talking about being an astronaut and reading books on NASA and lunar landings. In the third grade, I sat riveted to watch all the Apollo coverage on our grainy black-and-white television. While the other girls were doing book reports on cats or manners, I always chose topics such as space and moon rocks and exploration. I would stir up a glass of Tang for breakfast and think about what it would be like to drink it through a straw while floating upside down in a space suit. We built model rockets at school once, and I was thrilled to get out of that stupid sewing module and into my life's calling. I knew I'd eventually prove to all the naysayers that I was serious. I didn't know you needed to be a genius to be an astronaut; I though you just had to want to. And if it was about "want to," then I had it.
One Christmas I asked for and received a telescope so that I could keep an eye on things and chart my course through the stars. Never mind that it was the dinkiest little tabletop telescope ever, with three wobbly legs. I took it outside at dusk and stared at the moon. Soon I had convinced all the neighborhood kids that I could see the United States flag Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had planted on the lunar surface during the Apollo 11 mission. I was so sure that I even convinced myself I could see it. I can still remember blurry images of red, white and blue and my big-shot attitude. "If you were astronaut material, you'd be able to see the flag," I'd argue.
I think that this very moment is the first time I am consciously realizing that I probably did not actually see the Stars and Stripes from my front yard. This is a hard revelation. But how could you see a flag on the moon with a couple of scratched-up lenses inside a white plastic tube? I guess you can't. How embarrassing. I haven't thought about this in forever, and its kind of painful to realize I've believed my own hype all these years. A grand imagination dies a bitter, slow death, you know.
I bet you've already guessed where this story is going. One day some know-it-all said, "You can't be an astronaut. Astronauts need perfect vision. Astronauts can't wear glasses when you blast off in a rocket. They don't stay on in zero gravity." I'd never heard of such a thing. Then I checked around, and sure enough, back then, it was true. There were no four-eyed astronauts.
How could my best idea for an awe-inspiring, adventurous life be instantly gone? What was I going to do? The big dream inside this skinny girl was shattered. That dream had made me important. Everybody thought I had courage. How was I going to be somebody with no wild, over-the-top career to aspire to?
It was a very difficult day when my astronaut dream broke.
The Jesus Girl
Fast-forward about ten years, and that same nerdy girl meets Jesus in college. Thankfully there were no vision requirements except spiritual eyes to see. Maybe for the first time since the astronaut dream died, I had a reason to live. But I was still me, and I brought my energetic, wait-till-you-see-what-I-can-do-for-Jesus attitude to our relationship.
I thought it would work out great. Jesus needed me to show everybody how to be a model, happy Christian, and I needed something to do with my life, since I wouldn't be going to the moon.
I really fell in love with God and jumped into my new reason to live with both of my busy feet. It's like I went from place to place, begging anybody to show me what to do. I was a wild woman. Reading the Bible, doing two or three studies at a time. Praying for hours. Going to church every day I could find one open. Asking anyone who stood still long enough, "If you died tonight, do you know where you'd spend eternity?" I was a quick learner. Just give me the instructions, tell me what the rules are, then stand back and watch. I was going to be the best little Christian girl Jesus ever had.
And you know that whole thing kind of worked for a while. I am predisposed toward happy. I like happy people, and I like to make people happy. So my being happy for Jesus was a good fit. It gave me energy. It propelled me through seminary and the first years of my ministry. It was almost as if nothing could hurt me in those days. I'm sure I was oblivious to the hurt I caused with my happy pride about my happy life, but I was just zinging along, from campfire to campfire, singing.
I'll shout it from the mountaintops (Praise God!),
I want my world to know,
the Lord of Love,
has come to me,
I want to pass it on.
Well I kept shouting from the mountaintops, wondering why everyone couldn't just find a spark, get a fire going, pass it on, and we'd all snuggle up together beside the warm glowing.
I had wanted the world to know about Jesus and the happy life they could have in Him. What I didn't realize was that life out there in the real world was eventually going to roll in and teach me a thing or two about happy. Make that roll right over on top of me. No, more like put me under an asphalt paver and squish me flat like a bug, you know, where the guts are everywhere and you can't even tell what it used to be? Yep, that's about how it was somewhere around my early thirties.
I love that God gave me a happy-camper life for a while. Some of my best memories were made over s'mores or passing LifeSavers around a room with a toothpick between your teeth. The best stuff happened at a cabin in the woods, or at a sunrise service on the beach, or while tubing down a river with a bunch of crazy friends. The spiritual foundation that God built in those years is priceless to me now.
But when you're running along being the happy-camper Christian girl and you begin to feel your life come apart, it catches you by surprise. Maybe as the happy Jesus girl, I had all the right motives and exactly the right approach for those years, but I was blissfully ignorant about the pain and disappointment that can come to each of us. Before I really knew what was happening, parts of my life began to crack and little pieces started to break off and smash flat. Back then I did the only thing I knew to do: I sang louder and prayed harder and went to more Bible stuff. And that seemed to be the answer until I began to come apart in big chunks I was singing as loud as I could and the mountaintop was leveled anyway.
It was an even more difficult day when my perfect-Jesus-girl dream broke.
When a Person Breaks
When life is overwhelming and the burdens become more than one human being can bear . . .When your circumstances are unrelenting, or the consequences that have come to you heap higher and higher . . .When tragedy sneaks into your life to ambush you like a stalker, or the world bangs down the door and says, "Let me teach you a few lessons" . . .When there is just too much and you almost can't breathe . . .then people break. Hearts break and the will is broken and dreams shatter and the spirit is crushed.
For some reason I had believed there would be a progression. I'd bring my strengths to Jesus, He'd add more strength, then I'd just get better and better. I used to think that by now I'd probably be a spiritual giant. I guess I thought that after I'd spent most of my life knowing Jesus, I'd outgrow my humanity. I'd outrun the world. I'd rise above and never stumble. I don't' know where all these dumb ideas came from, but I was just wrong and strong-willed and insensitive. Did I say the whole sing-louder-to-drown-out-the-heartache thing was dumb? 'Cause if I didn't, it was.
Brokenness comes to us for so many different reasons. Sometimes it's the way the world comes up to greet us. Sometimes it's the consequences of our sin. Sometimes it's the result of a lifetime of poor choices. And then sometimes we can't even untangle the mess to give it a name. Christians break for all the same reasons anybody breaks, because they are human and fragile and prone to wander.
I have friends who have been broken by sickness, the death of a child or a spouse, bankruptcy, abuse, rape, addictions, abortion, and on and on. They are Christians who've been crushed in one way or another by tragedy or choices or sin. You know sometimes it starts small and then gets bigger. That's how brokenness came to me. I have been broken by circumstances and choices and then, finally, divorce.
Sometimes we have to use...